Sarpong, D., Amstéus, M.N. and Amankwah-Amoah, J. (2015), "Cultivation and management of strategic foresight in contexts of rapid change, greater complexity, and genuine uncertainties", Foresight, Vol. 17 No. 5. https://doi.org/10.1108/FS-05-2015-0027Download as .RIS
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Cultivation and management of strategic foresight in contexts of rapid change, greater complexity, and genuine uncertainties
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Foresight, Volume 17, Issue 5
David Sarpong, Martin Nils Amstéus and Joseph Amankwah-Amoah
David Sarpong is Senior Lecturer at Strategy and International Business, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. Martin Nils Amstéus is Senior Lecturer at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden. Joseph Amankwah-Amoah is Senior Lecturer at the School of Economics, Finance and Management, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
Occupying analogous intellectual space with concepts such as long-range planning, strategic planning and strategic thinking, strategic foresight has come to dominate contemporary management discourse on the creation and capture of sustainable value in complex and fast-moving environments. Theorized as an organizing capability that enables firms to transcend established boundaries to capture opportunities otherwise glossed over by competitors, the topic of strategic foresight has attracted considerable academic interest in the past few decades. A growing body of evidence now suggests that strategic foresight could lead to durable organizational outcomes, such as adaptive learning, ambidexterity and innovation (Paliokaitė et al., 2014; Sarpong and Maclean, 2014). Another interesting line of research indicates that strategic foresight can equip organizations to identify and mitigate the triggers of declining performance (Amankwah-Amoah, 2014a, 2014b; Amsteus, 2008).
Nevertheless, the philosophical, theoretical and empirical specifications on the management and cultivation of strategic foresight as an organizing capability remain sparse (Sarpong et al., 2013). At best, the existing literature has suggested two opposite perspectives on the cultivation of strategic foresight. First, conceptualizing managers as the locus of strategic foresight, some scholars suggest that the cultivation of foresight requires firms to episodically organize ultra-rational corporate futures exercises. This view is supported by the proliferation of corporate foresight exercises and multifarious methodologies, such as scenario planning, Delphi, environmental scanning, etc. Others in contrast, have highlighted the distributed nature of strategic foresight and the contingent role of “ordinary” organizational members in the cultivation of strategic foresight by emphasizing everyday organizing practices, routines and activities as the site of emergence of strategic foresight.
The purpose of this special issue, therefore, is to explore the antecedents, logics and organizing dimensions of strategic foresight and how it could be managed and leveraged for firms embedded in fast-moving environments, in different industries and located in different geographic regions. Indicative of the issues theme and the momentum generated by research on strategic foresight across various management sub-disciplines, the call for papers generated 35 submissions that dealt with a broad spectrum of issues related to the origins and locus of strategic foresight, the integration of strategic foresight in organizations and the failure of strategic foresight.
Overview of paper in this special issue
In the first paper entitled: Strategia sapiens: Strategic foresight in a new perspective, Tamás draws on nurtures theory to offer two new perspectives on strategic foresight by synthesizing his thesis around four areas of strategic foresight: the content of a vision, its emergence process and the characteristics of strategic foresight in time and in space. Calling for the incorporation of cultural responsibility in foresight exercises, and an intergenerational view of strategic foresight, the paper goes on to argue that the self-realization and recognition of the existence of a value- and culture-driven way of life are both fundamental for a renewal of the field of foresight and future studies.
Our second paper by Davies and Pyper entitled: Enacting a new approach to scenario analysis: The Potential of a Pragmatist takes a new look at how scenarios are produced and used. It does so from a perspective that is unusual in the field: network pragmatism. Their network pragmatist account allows scenarios to play an important role in actions designed to secure specific futures for organizations. It, thus, endows them with micro-political force. They argue that any scenario that fails to exert this force will wither and ultimately, die, but can be resuscitated. With its demise in the networked world, a scenario can assume a more partial and private existence, shaping the affections, loyalties and actions of notable individuals.
Our third paper by Wayland entitled: Strategic foresight in a changing world draws on over 25 years of practice in corporate strategy, including ten years of work in scenario planning to examine the nature of change and the practices of strategic foresight required to anticipate and to plan for change. Providing a sketch of investigations of change and related areas of uncertainty and discontinuity, the paper outlines a conceptual framework delineating four types of change: incremental, contextual, structural and foundational, and goes further to unpack the methodological distinctions required to explore them. The paper then goes further to show how these methodological approaches could be leveraged to support structured approaches to scenario analysis.
The fourth paper by Vishnevskiy, Meissner and Karasev entitled: Strategic foresight: State-of-the-art and prospects for Russian corporations extends the notion of strategic foresight to include technology and innovation, individuals and society changes, environment and nature, as well as politics and law. In doing this, they integrate ideas from technology road-mapping to develop a foresight methodology that fits in with the Russian business context. Their foresight methodology, they argue, present possibilities and potentialities for Russian corporations to identify emerging technological trajectories and innovation pathways in fast-moving environments. Each trajectory they argue is a sequence of organizational actions and strategic investment in research and development to create and capture value from their technologies.
The fifth paper by Hartmann, Stillings and von der Gracht, Heiko entitled: Using scenarios in multinational companies across geographic distances: A case from the chemical industry examined the context and relevance of strategic foresight in the chemical industry. Based on the case of a multi-national chemical company, they draw on the experience of 17 process iterations during a period of five years with over 170 participants during which the core scenario process-moderator team did not change to show how global organizations use scenario planning as part of their strategic-planning processes. They found that scenario processes add value when embedded in established strategic-planning processes. Concentrating on scenario planning for regional strategies the paper contributes to best practice in scenario methodology and goes further to describe some lessons learnt and provide a list of best practices for scenario practitioners.
The sixth paper by Schmidt entitled: Policy, planning, intelligence and foresight in government organization, examines and illustrates how the planning, policy, intelligence and foresight functions best operate collaboratively to form an integrated system supporting effective, adaptive and resilient organizational decision-making processes. Focusing on government agencies, especially those supporting mature, liberal democratic governments, the paper proposes a new, practical, low-cost and high-return model for implementing a programmatic foresight function that is integrated with the organization’s existing policy, planning and intelligence functions. It also sheds light on the relevant organizational considerations and options for structural adjustments and suggests how the proposed model can maximize decision-making effectiveness without disrupting pre-existing structures, operations and products.
In the penultimate paper entitled: On the influence of organizational routines on strategic foresight, Appiah and Sarpong’s paper unpacks the relationship between organizational routines and strategic foresight integration. They develop a routines-foresight model to show how and when organizational routines might influence strategic foresight integration. They argue that the success (or failure) of foresight integration is partly a result of the nature of interaction between the ostensive and performative aspects of routines within a focal organization. They go further to identify actors’ mindfulness, organizational context and organizational ambidexterity as moderating factors that constitutively give form to strategic foresight, and how ostensive and performative interactions in practice may influence successful foresight integration.
Finally, Amankwah-Amoah and Zhang’s paper entitled: Tales from the grave: What can we learn from failed international companies enriches our understanding on how firms can learn from others failure to improve their foresightfulness. In doing this, they examined how organizational closure can inform strategic foresight. Drawing on insights from illustrative cases, that is Swissair, Sabena and Cameroon Airlines, their study shed light on the effects of internal and external factors in precipitating business closures. They established that top executives’ hubris, resistance to change and over-reliance on external consultants are some of the precursors to organizational closure. Their in-depth analysis provides a range of strategies that organizations can pursue to learn from other firms’ closure and improve their survivability and chances of future success.
We are very grateful to the Editor-in-Chief of Foresight, Dr Ozcan Saritas, who enthusiastically agreed to host this special issue. The Guest Editors would also like to thank the authors who contributed to the special issue, the fantastic Foresight reviewers who worked around the clock to provide our authors with stellar reviews and sharing their expertise with us. Finally, we would also like to acknowledge the Emerald team who supported us throughout the submission, reviewing and production process.
Amankwah-Amoah, J. (2014a), “Old habits die hard: a tale of two failed companies and an unwanted inheritance”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 67 No. 9, pp. 1894-1903.
Amankwah-Amoah, J. (2014b), “A unified framework of explanations for strategic persistence in the wake of others’ failures”, Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 422-444.
Amsteus, M. (2008), “Managerial foresight: concept and measurement”, Foresight, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 53-66.
Paliokaitė, A., Pačėsa, N. and Sarpong, D. (2014), “Conceptualizing strategic foresight: an integrated framework”, Strategic Change, Vol. 23 Nos 3/4, pp. 161-169.
Sarpong, D. and Maclean, M. (2014), “Unpacking strategic foresight: a practice approach”, Scandinavian Journal of Management, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 16-26.
Sarpong, D., Maclean, M. and Davis, C. (2013), “Matter of foresight: how organizing practices enable (or impede) organizational foresightfulness”, European Management Journal, Vol. 31 No. 6, pp. 613-625.
About the Guest Editors
David Sarpong is a Senior Lecturer in Strategy and International Business at the Bristol Business School, University of the West of England. His research interests lie in the broad fields of strategic management and organizational foresight and focuses on the influence of foresight on the fostering of innovation, managerial foresight, peripheral visioning and prospective sense-making in strategic self-organized groups. His research has been published in journals, such as Technovation, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Scandinavian Journal of Management, European Management Journal, Strategic Change, Futures and Foresight. He is the Vice Chair of the Strategy Special Interest Group of the British Academy of Management.mailto:David2.firstname.lastname@example.org
Martin Nils Amstéus is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University, Sweden, where he also received his PhD in Marketing in 2011. His research interests focus on strategy, foresight, human behavior, philosophical and practical aspects of science and research methods. His research has appeared in journals, such as: Foresight, World Futures, Strategic Change, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion, International Journal of Business and Social Science and Journal of Futures Studies.
Joseph Amankwah-Amoah is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Economics, Finance and Management at the University of Bristol, UK. His research interests include organizational failure, global business strategy, liberalization and the airline and solar PV industries. He has published articles in journals, such as the International Journal of HRM, Business History, Technological Forecasting and Social Change Group & Organization Management, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Workplace Learning, Journal of Management Development, Management & Organizational History, Strategic Change, Thunderbird International Business Review, Journal of Strategy and Management and Journal of General Management.